Backstage: Who dares tell Meryl Streep how to act? Step up George Clooney


Film producers face a delicate balancing act between adding their input and not treading on the creative toes of the director, the writer and the actors. It seems Harvey Weinstein has a new tactic: send in George Clooney.

Weinstein tells me that the Hollywood heartthrob was his secret weapon with his latest film, August: Osage County, to work with the star-heavy cast (Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor are among the big names).

“I knew that there would be inevitable disagreements, and at one point I thought that I would produce the thing myself, but smartness is better than valour so I got another unknown, untested entity named George Clooney to produce the film so he could handle the inevitable arguments and disagreements,” he joked at a screening of the film at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) in London last week.

“George is probably the best producer I’ve ever worked with, because not only does he go to Oklahoma where we shot it, but he’s in the middle of it with a strong opinion.”

The film is a dramatic, twisting, blacker-than-black comedy, which will offer fun for all the dysfunctional family. At the heart of both the on-screen family, based on that of the play by Tracy Letts, and the cast, are Roberts and Streep. And they are a pair that Weinstein says he wasn’t keen to cross.

“Why take your life in your hands? I’d rather ride 300 miles an hour in Monte Carlo in a rain storm than suggest to Meryl Streep how to act. But George will do it, George mixed it up with both of them. He had certain scenes where he said ‘nope, let’s underplay that’ – George and John [Wells, the film’s director] teamed up a bunch of times and said ‘hey, I think underplay this’.”

Weinstein added that one of Streep’s biggest acting talents was disappearing, and recounted a tale of meeting her in a wholesale supermarket near the set in Oklahoma. “She was shopping, just to get the lay of the land, see the people from Oklahoma, she’d go to a mall and she’d just be invisible. Meryl can make herself invisible,” he says. “I’ve seen her do that a lot, Meryl – when she wants to – she can just be under the radar, it’s just incredible to see.

“And Julia, who I thought would easily get spotted, can wear a pair of glasses, put her hair up and put a little beanie on and she disappears too. They both have that chameleon ability. They’re observers, really.”

Stand up for an extraordinary theatre experience

Boredom with traditional theatre is what inspired Diqui James to create Fuerzabruta, the all-standing, high-energy show which combines rave, nudity and extraordinary visual effects. After selling out earlier this year, it is making a 10-week return to the Roundhouse in London.

But James says not to expect a familiar theatrical experience. “When I was young I used to love to go to rock concerts and to see football … these big, massive events,” he tells me over the phone from Buenos Aires. “When I started to learn acting, I started to get bored, the feeling of ‘I need something else’ was the main inspiration.”

The other driving force was the power of cinema. “I hate that feeling that ‘theatre is serious, cinema is to have fun’. I want to have fun! I like to move the camera, that’s why we don’t use seats, you can be really close to somebody and then really far away ... And I like that feeling that you cannot see the whole picture. That you are only seeing part of the thing and you have to move to see another part of the thing. And you don’t know what you are missing, and sometimes you think it is much more interesting what you are missing, it makes everything more real, more like how life is.”

Fuerzabruta is at the Roundhouse from 23 December until 2 March. For tickets: 0844 482 8008 or

Rose won’t judge books by covers

Rose Tremain CBE has been named as the chair of the judges at the Costa Prize, overseeing a panel including actress Natascha McElhone, Texas singer Sharleen Spiteri and Pointless presenter Richard Osman. Judging by past comments, the novelist, is well aware of the awkwardness of prizes for those in her trade. “People say to me: ‘Do you write books for prizes?’ It couldn’t be further from the truth,” she told the Telegraph after The Road Home won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2008.  “It is unreal, this media thing you go through – especially for writers, who are on the whole very private people.” She has also shown herself to be unafraid to question the winners of the Costa. After Stef Penney topped the first book category in the 2006 Costa with The Tenderness of Wolves, Tremain told the Evening Standard that she “eventually gave up on Penney’s slushy, meandering narrative.”

Rolling Stones fail to move Iceland herring

Fishy tales emerge from Iceland about the Rolling Stones. To combat a dangerous build-up of herring in Kolgrafafjordur, West Iceland, sound engineers played “Satisfaction” and “Brown Sugar” in an attempt to drive them from the fjord. The fish, reports, were seemingly unmoved by the underwater music session. “They were perhaps not as afraid of the Stones as of other sounds,” said Sigmar Gudbjornsson, of aquatic research company Star-Oddi, adding that no other band’s music had yet been played to the fish. Perhaps they just enjoyed it?

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Jenny Lee may have left, but Miranda Hart and the rest of the midwives deliver the goods

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all